Serious accusations

Published November 4, 2022

The attempt on former prime minister Imran Khan’s life has lit a fuse that must be put out post-haste. In his first public statement after surviving a deadly gun attack, the PTI chairman has named the prime minister, interior minister and a senior intelligence official as being responsible for the bid to assassinate him.

Claiming that he had been aware of the conspiracy for a while, Mr Khan referred to a statement he had made during a September jalsa, where he had spoken about an alleged plot to assassinate him and frame it as a religiously motivated attack.

Read: The stakes could not be higher for Imran Khan, the establishment and Pakistan

He said he had also been warned ahead of Thursday that the attack could materialise soon, but had found it difficult to believe it, thinking that the plotters would not actually go through with their plan.

Mr Khan has now demanded the resignation or removal of all three officials from their positions, saying he does not believe any investigation can be conducted independently while they remain in office.

These are very serious accusations. By going public with them, Mr Khan has taken a step that he may find impossible to reverse. It seems highly unlikely that Shehbaz Sharif or Rana Sanaullah will step down on Mr Khan’s demands, and it is improbable that the military will be interested at this time in removing a top official merely on his complaint.

Also read: What international analysts are writing about the attempt on Imran Khan’s life

This means that whatever investigation is done will be hamstrung from the start by accusations of interference and partiality, and the acrimony between the state and the PTI will continue to grow.

It is hoped that matters do not turn any uglier than they already have. A precursor to what may happen could be seen on TV screens all Friday afternoon as Mr Khan’s supporters and sympathisers clashed with police after a call for protests all over the country.

The PTI chief has told his supporters to keep protesting till the resignations are effected. Sustained chaos might tempt certain quarters to seize control on the pretext of controlling the ‘domestic instability’ they have been repeatedly warning about.

It ought to be said here that the Punjab police has thus far thoroughly bungled its handling of the attack investigation. The leaked ‘confession’ videos of the prime suspect, the delayed registration of the FIR and conflicting statements from the centre and Punjab have all added to the confusion and fuelled conspiracy theories.

Also read: Will Pakistani politics survive Wazirabad?

This is a dangerous situation. The nation awaits answers. We must know who pulled the trigger, what their motivations were, if there is anything that points to a larger conspiracy or if this was the work of a lone wolf.

The chasm of distrust between one side of the political divide and the other will only widen unless those questions are answered. Any attempt to derail the investigation could cost the nation dearly.

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